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The NEW Recommendations on How to Perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

During cardiac arrest, a person stops breathing normally, collapses and becomes unresponsive. Close to 80 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home and are witnessed by a family member who has the chance to double the person's chance of survival by administering a do-it-yourself technique that everyone should know: CPR.

cardiac arrest

Administering CPR to a person in cardiac arrest before help arrives doubles their chance of survival.

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, can help to save lives. As it stands, the American Heart Association estimates that 95 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before they reach the hospital. In all, about 900 Americans die each day because of the condition.

During cardiac arrest, time is crucial. If no CPR or defibrillation (an electric shock to the heart) is given, the brain starts to die within four to six minutes of the arrest. Meanwhile, for every minute that CPR is not provided, the person's chances of survival fall by 7 percent to 10 percent until defibrillation occurs.

The logic behind CPR is simple. It helps to keep blood flowing to the heart and the brain, and increases the amount of time that a defibrillator can be effective. In other words, it helps keep the person alive while help is on the way.

The NEW CPR: Chest Compressions, Not Mouth-to-Mouth

Typically, CPR involved chest compressions along with mouth-to-mouth breathing to help give the person oxygen. However, the personal nature of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, along with the fear of germs, may actually be causing people to avoid giving CPR, researchers say.

Meanwhile, it turns out giving chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth works just as well, if not better, than the traditional model.

In fact, a study published in the Lancet medical journal examined this very issue. After comparing the outcomes of more than 4,000 adults who received either traditional CPR, chest-compressions only or no CPR until paramedics arrived, it was found that those who got chest compressions only had less brain damage than those who received traditional CPR. (Those who got no CPR at all fared the worst.)

The researchers think the mouth-to-mouth step may actually be counterproductive because it takes critical time away from the chest compressions that keep blood circulating to the heart and brain, particularly if only one person is performing the CPR.

cardiac arrests occur at home and are witnessed by a family member

About 80 percent of cardiac arrests occur at home and are witnessed by a family member -- so knowing CPR could literally save the life of one of your loved ones.

"For cardiac arrest, the term 'rescue breathing' is actually a paradox," said Dr. Gordon Ewy of the University of Arizona in a CBC News article. "We now know that not only is it not helpful, but it's often harmful."

According to Ewy, a person has a better chance of surviving if their blood is circulated well throughout their body via compressions, even if the blood has less oxygen in it.

Although health agencies say more studies are needed before guidelines officially remove all mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, many already have begun to place more emphasis on chest compression than breaths.

For instance, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends giving give 30 chest compressions and then two breaths -- except in the case of drowning and drug overdose victims, to which the traditional approach is still recommended.

"Bad CPR is Better Than no CPR"

The newer recommendations to focus more on chest compressions than on mouth-to-mouth breathing may encourage more people to step in and administer CPR to strangers, and eventually save more lives, researchers say.

Meanwhile, if you're in an emergency situation the bottom line to remember is that, even if you don't do CPR perfectly, it is still better than not doing it at all.

"Bad CPR is better than no CPR," says Gail Lazenby, a captain with the District Public Safety Department in The Villages, Florida.

You can learn how to do CPR at your local community center or use the American Heart Association's tool to find a class near you. There are also CPR learning kits that you can order, which allow you to learn CPR in your own home, in as little as 20 minutes.

Once you learn the technique, it's important to act fast, as every second counts during cardiac arrest. Also, make sure that help is on the way immediately because CPR, as crucial as it is, can only do so much.

"Most people don't like to hear this, but CPR doesn't resuscitate people," Lazenby said. "CPR buys time. It's defibrillation that buys life."

Because of this, while learning CPR you may also want to learn how to use an AED (automated external defibrillator) device. These portable machines are already in many public places, like airports, and are becoming increasingly prolific. As the technology advances to help a person experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, it's worth everyone's time to learn how to save the life of someone in need.

Recommended Reading

Coronary Microvascular Syndrome (CMS): The Hidden Heart Attack Risk They STILL Aren't Checking For

Chromium: It May Help Prevent Heart Attacks, Improve Cholesterol & Much More


The Lancet March 2007, Vol. 369, Issue 9565, 17, Pages 920-926

American Heart Association

CBC News March 16, 2007

The Villages Daily Sun

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